For Margueritte Aozasa, the victory was “quite a comeback story.”
On Dec. 5, Aozasa made history, becoming the first rookie head coach in NCAA women’s soccer history and the second Asian American head coach to win the national championship, according to an article from the UCLA Athletics department, as her University of California, Los Angeles Bruins stormed back to defeat the University of North Carolina Tarheels 3-2 in the 2022 Women’s College Cup.
Down 2-0, the Bruins scored two goals in the final 10 minutes of regulation, including the tying goal with 16 seconds left in the match. The Bruins eventually scored the decisive goal and won the match in double overtime.
“Just the resilience they showed, composure they showed, under a lot of pressure, hopefully will be inspiring to other teams, and hopefully to our own program as we move forward,” Aozasa said of her team’s comeback, in a phone interview with the Nichi Bei Weekly.
Aozasa, a former Stanford Cardinal Women’s Soccer assistant coach, said being the first rookie head coach, woman of color and one of the few Asian American coaches to win the national championship was “really special” because “I don’t think we always realize the scope of our inspiration or our influence.”
Aozasa played soccer at Santa Clara University.
After taking some time off, Aozasa and the team will regroup in January after a long season. Aozasa, who grew up in Mountain View, Calif., will return to the Bay Area to visit her family before preparing for next season’s title defense.
Priorities for next season, Aozasa said, include building on team chemistry and camaraderie, along with “finding ways to be creative, finding ways to be innovative so that our team stays interested and stays motivated.” She added the coaching staff will try to help turn young players, who played “significant roles” this past season, into leaders.
To help prepare her players for the pressure and expectations coming off of a championship season next year, Aozasa said she and her coaching staff will put the team into groups and “give them prompts or thought exercises.” She considers it to be “mental skills training.”
The team will start with a reflection of the year and what the championship victory meant to everyone “on a personal level,” Aozasa remarked. She added that the players can discuss the pressures and other reservations they may be feeling heading into the new season.
“This year, in some way, we didn’t have a lot of expectations because yeah, it’s our first time as a staff and being a rookie head coach, but at the same time, I think anytime you’re coaching UCLA, the expectation is to win,” Aozasa said. She added that the team will have a “target” on their back from the start of next season, which will be new.